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February, 2013

The Power of Holding Hands

by Julia

My father-in-law was a Nazarene minister and he would sometimes tell this story to make a point in his sermon. He would tell of a little boy who was lost and the neighbors had gathered to try to find him. They ran around to look here and there but soon it was getting dark and still no luck. Finally someone said let us all hold hands and make one long line to see whether we can find him. As they swept the area, sure enough they found the lost boy, asleep on the hillside. He used this story in various ways, when he was trying to raise money to build a church, or when he was trying to get his people to work together. He was a wonderful man and a great influence on many through the years.

I remember when he was invited back to Waco to speak at the 50-year celebration of the church he had helped to build. He had retired and was living in Austin. Leon had retired, and we were living nearby on a small ranch on the edge of Austin. Papa Frank and Mama Pearl invited me to go with them. As a child I had gone often to the Nazarene Church when it was just around the corner from where I lived.

Mama Pearl and Papa Frank (Larry's paternal grandmother and grandfather) on their wedding day (1910). See also larvalbug lens, March, 2011.
So it was that I was in the audience that Sunday. Papa spoke movingly of all that had been accomplished, and then at the end of his talk he asked all the saints of the church to come forward to pray with him at the altar one last time. When no one started forward, he began to call their names; these people who had worked so tirelessly through the years. I began to cry as I recognized those who had always been there, to give parties for the youth, to organize the softball team, to come forward with food for the sick and elderly, to give with money and labor to build the church. As they began to come forward, some with crippled bodies, he said, "Come on down you saints, you know who you are," and it came to me that indeed I did know. I thought of the years I had attended Vacation Bible School, the fun I had had, but also learning a strict moral code. I thought of the years when Christmas was very meager for us, but these people had always been able to furnish each child with a stocking full of candy and fruit. I recalled the many turkey dinners sold for $1.00, and how everyone pitched in to sell and make the dinners so that the church would be built with no debt when it was finished.

Yes, as I watched the Duckets, the Fords, the Ledbetters, the Calloways, and all these precious people who had indeed joined hands in dedication to their minister and their church, it came to me what they had meant in my life. Until that moment I had not given much thought to the importance their influence had been. They are all gone now, but recently I had occasion to use that story of everyone joining hands to find the lost boy. It brought back the memory of when I first heard it and how it was used many times to emphasize the importance of working together. Not long ago my children joined hands to give me a most wonderful weekend to celebrate my 90th birthday. Through the years they have given many glorious occasions, our 50th wedding anniversary, my 80th birthday, and many Christmas celebrations. I am so fortunate and grateful for all the love I have had. So thank you to all who have given me so much. I feel truly blessed.

(Thanks much for this inspriring tribute and appreciation, Julia [Mom]. I can remember a bit of Papa Frank's fiery, moving oratory, filled with anecdotes and images. You bring memory of him and the values for which he stood vivdly back with your neat essay. Larry)

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